Texas grid failed from weatherizing mistakes a decade old


People in Houston line up to fill their empty propane tanks

Ten years ago, plunging temperatures forced rolling blackouts across Texas, leaving more than 3 million people without power as the Super Bowl was played outside Dallas.

Now, with a near identical scenario following another Texas cold snap, Texas power regulators are being forced to answer how the unusually cold temperatures forced so much of the state’s power generation offline when Texans were trying to keep warm…

To start, experts say, power generators and regulators failed to heed the lessons of 2011 — or for that matter, 1989. In the aftermath of the Super Bowl Sunday blackout a decade ago, federal energy officials warned the grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT, that Texas power plants had failed to adequately weatherize facilities to protect against cold weather…

But the repeat of the events of a decade ago is raising questions in Austin as to whether the state has failed to ensure power companies are adequately protecting equipment from the elements. At the peak of the blackout, some 45,000 megawatts of generation capacity were offline, leaving more than 4 million Texans without power.

RTFA. Texas’ political hacks seem to be as incompetent, ignorant, as any other politicians that complain about. State, federal, regional, maybe on Mars. They copout on their responsibilities to Texans. Then, try to blame someone else, somewhere else.

Researchers find mixed values for “thoughts and prayers”

❝ An experiment led by Assistant Professor Linda Thunstrom, of the Department of Economics in UW’s College of Business, found that Christians who suffer such adversity value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers, while atheists and agnostics believe they are worse off from such gestures…

❝ The debate over the value of “thoughts and prayers” has come to the forefront as a result of the verbal responses of political and other leaders to mass shootings and natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires. Some critics argue that expressing sympathy through thoughts and prayers is a meaningless gesture in response to tragedy — and that, in some cases, it’s an excuse to not take action…

❝ Specifically, the study found that, on average, Christian hurricane victims value prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36, and $7.17 from a priest. In contrast, non-religious people are willing to pay $3.54 for a Christian stranger and $1.66 for a priest to not pray for them.

Likewise, Christians value thoughts from a religious stranger at $3.27, while non-religious people negatively value the same gesture at -$2.02.

You can find details over here. Chuckles pretty much anywhere.

An Amazon Tax Won’t Stop Britain’s Retailers From Self-Destructing

❝ The carnage on the British high street from the likes of House of Fraser and Homebase naturally leads to calls for blood from internet retailing behemoth Amazon.com Inc. Enter Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who last week said he was strongly considering an “Amazon tax” to help retailers. Conservative Scottish lawmaker Ruth Davidson lent her support this week.

It’s a bad idea.

❝ For a start, let’s just get one thing straight. Amazon didn’t kill the British high street.

The U.K. store chains that have collapsed this year did so because they didn’t have the right products at the right prices, invest enough in their businesses, or stay up to date with consumer trends. Associated British Foods’ Primark faces exactly the same pressures as everyone else, and doesn’t even sell via the internet. But it has prospered…

❝ True, the retail landscape is being reshaped by the continued growth of online shopping. And the tax system needs to be adjusted accordingly. There must be some leveling between bricks-and-mortar stores, which are both property- and people-heavy, and online-only merchants, which are less so.

RTFA for suggestions which make economic and fiscal sense. Something often as absent from the British Parliament as they are in the US Congress.

Fake president wasted everyone’s time this weekend in Canada


Click to enlarge

❝ Just when it seemed that the G7 leaders had eked out a joint communique and avoided an open rift, Donald Trump in a stunning Twitter turnaround, retracted his endorsement. It’s probably better that way

❝ Sometimes it is good to rip off the band-aid. And by backing out of an apparently agreed upon joint G7 communique at the last minute via Twitter and on a plane en route to Singapore President Trump has done just that.

In his tweet he accused Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau of making false statements at his press conference and said he had “instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communique…If he really does pull out of the agreement it would not be his first withdrawal. In fact, Trump is a master withdrawer. He pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and UNESCO, to name just a few…

But it is probably better that way than trying to paper over a fundamental rift that really can’t be papered over…Because President Trump’s appearance here in Quebec made clear one more time how he feels about America’s closest allies and the post-war international order that Washington was instrumental in building: he could not care less. More than that, he is actively trying to disrupt and undermine it.

With or without the encouragement of rightwing scumbags like Bolton, Miller and Navarro, I was confident Trump would back out of anything positive or constructive he pretended to agree to during the day-and-a-half he spent in Charlevoix. Look at Chancellor Merkel in the photo up top. She looks like she trusts Trump as far as she can throw him uphill into a heavy wind.

RTFA for the gruesome – predictable – results.

Protect free speech rights for bots?

❝ Do you have a right to know if you’re talking to a bot? How about the bot? Does it have the right to keep that information from you? Those questions have been stirring in the minds of many since well before Google demoed Duplex, a human-like AI that makes phone calls on a user’s behalf, earlier this month.

Bots — online accounts that appear to be controlled by a human, but are actually powered by AI — are now prevalent all across the internet, specifically on social media sites. While some people think legally forcing these bots to “out” themselves as non-human would be beneficial, others think doing so violates the bot’s right to free speech. Yes, they believe bots have the same First Amendment rights as humans in America.

RTFA. Standard copout piece pretty much avoiding rational science-based discussion of philosophical questions. I expect there are plenty of handy bots slipping through the fog of the Web already advancing petit bourgeois rationales for Bot Freedoms – generated by owners profiting from their bots. Or hoping to.

But, you might want to interfere with morning coffee [or tea] enough to – at a minimum – develop your own opinion on the topic.